A Letter To My 23-Year-Old Self On My 26th Birthday


Here we are. It’s three years later, and life couldn’t be more different. 

Happy Birthday.

This year your birthday does not scare you. Your 24th birthday will be a good one, but your 25th will instill a lot of fear in you. In your head right now, you think that by 25 you will have your life figured out. You will have your dream job, and you will not have to depend on anyone anymore to support you. Fast forward two years, and you are nowhere near the place you thought you would be at 25. You always told yourself you would give up and move on to a different career path if you hadn’t made it by 25. But instead of giving up, you decided to change your definition of “making it.” And that has made all of the difference.

25 turns out to be one of the most difficult years of your life, but you will make it through. Your job will change in ways you never imagined this year, and it will push you to your breaking point. But you never give up, and it makes you so much stronger than you have ever been.

You will start to feel like every day is a new disaster, and a lot of days that perspective is entirely accurate. But every day you still push forward, and you begin to see how many doors can open for you if you just open your eyes and allow yourself to see beyond your “five-year plan.”

Where you are at right now, you have just had one of the most traumatic years of your entire life. This was your first year out of college, and your world has turned completely upside down. You did not walk into your dream like you thought you would. In fact, you turned down your dream job this year. You don’t know it yet, but this dream job closed its doors not long after they wanted to hire you. So never question again the fact that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it just takes a lot longer for us to figure out the reason.

This was also the year you finally ended your incredibly toxic relationship with him. Just a couple of days ago, you two spoke on the phone for the last time. It was the worst he had been to you yet, and I am so sorry we let it get this bad. But just know that this time the ending is permanent. You start dating others again, and after awhile, you realize you do not need him to build your life. You already have everything you need within yourself. He will try to reach out a few more times, and you are finally strong enough to ignore him. In a few months, he will apologize to you, and this will be the last time for the foreseeable future that you two will ever speak. You will have your moments though where you want desperately to go back to him. There will be times when he feels like the only escape. Times when his type of love feels like all that you deserve. It isn’t. He is not a way out of your problems. You are the only way out of your problems.

You will continue dating over these three years, and you will meet a lot of different men. You will see that it is possible to move on after abuse, even though it is not easy. You will learn to finally become comfortable in your own skin and that will truly change your life. You still have not found your “forever person,” but you have met people who will show you what real love feels like. Someone will come into your life at times when you are really beginning to doubt that there is anyone else out there for you, and he will change your perspective on dating forever. He will be a good lesson in your life, but he will also teach you that sometimes the best things in life are not permanent. Do not let that diminish the time you two have together. Learn to enjoy living in the moment and always remind yourself that some people and experiences are worth taking a chance for.

Remember that the length of an experience does not determine the amount that it can change your life.

I know you are scared, and you are tired right now. That feeling won’t necessarily go away in the next few years, but you will learn that it is okay to let yourself feel.

You will learn the value of rest, and you will begin to understand how to say no to jobs, people, and experiences that no longer serve or interest you. You will stand up for yourself more than you ever thought you could, and you will meet so many new people who will change your life forever. This is just a rough patch that may seem so detrimental right now, but in the grand scheme of things, you will be okay. It won’t happen overnight, and even today, you will still have so many moments where you question everything and wonder if this is really the right path for you. But what you know now at 26 that you don’t realize at 23 is that you have the power to change your entire life if you want or need to. What everyone else is doing has nothing to do with how you can live your life. If you are doing what makes you happy, then you have already won.

Always remember that.